The McHugh Military AMM-68 is a tube-powered small condenser microphone designed around the AKG C-60. That is where the similarities end. I use the term "around" as the microphone's design is nothing short of genius in its simplicity. The whole thing comes in an army surplus ammo box that is painted on one side with a handsome emblem of the McHugh family coat of arms, and the other side bearing the microphone's name and specs nomenclature. Painted in standard army issue olive drab and yellow, the whole package looks ready for battle. So what is the big deal, it's just another box right? Wrong! Not only does the ammo box house the mic, but it houses the power supply, mic transformer (Jensen!), IEC power cord, and the custom made mic cable. Unlatch the side latch, pull up gently on the top (as the box seals airtight and creates a vacuum when tugged too hard) and there is the mic nesting comfortably in its own bracket on top of the wooden interior partition that covers the electronics. The partition occupies less than 1/2 of the interior room leaving room on the side for the rolled up cords. On top of the partition is a toggle switch for a very handy -20 dB pad. The IEC input and power switch are on the outside back of the box on the hinged end. The mic connections are located correctly on the opposite end, keeping that buzzy AC away from the audio. The mic itself is a small milled aluminum tube measuring a compact 5" long. The capsule houses the .713" (just say 3/4") diaphragm. Inside the body is the subminiature military tube that is the heart of the mic. A handsome brass identity badge is riveted to the body of the mic. You'll need a smaller rubbery Peavey-type mic clip for the mic or any AKG clip, as a clip is not included. Once set up on a stand, the look of the thin mic cable (a generous 15 plus feet) going back to the ammo box is very cool. Okay, so it looks and feels cool. How does it sound? In a word, incredible. The AMM-68 is a real workhouse. On close applications, it is kind of like a 57 on tube steroids. It distorts very nicely if needed, or engage the pad and tame the beast. It can take the SPLs as the tube just saturates beautifully. (Are you digital guys drooling yet?) With some distance, it takes on an almost ribbon like sound. It excels on toms and congas. Great for room sounds and overheads. It is also an amazing vocal mic. It is warm both literally and figuratively. In a world where everybody is pushing cheap condensers around like they are candy, it is nice to find a true hand-built American product that is built by the actual designers. At $575 each (or $1,150.00 for a pair), these mics are a bargain. I own my share of small condensers and use them for the usual stuff. Having a pair of tube small condensers has added another bold color to my sonic palette. These mics are for serious engineers that are searching for that magic sound that will leap out of a mix. Having been introduced to them through a stroke of good fortune while mixing Chris Cacavas's new record at Mike McHugh's studio, the Distillery, I was amazed by the sonic signature of the tracks on the tape I was mixing. This was because many of the instruments had been lovingly recorded by Mike McHugh with the AMM-68 prototypes. I knew right then and there I needed a pair. On my next trip out, I got my ammo boxes. The only down side is I don't think I can carry them on the plane.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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